Tag Archives: Major Projects Authority

DWP debate highlights Duncan Smith’s failure to perform

“This particular Secretary of State, along with his Department, is pushing people through [the] cracks and hoping that the rest of the country will not notice that they have disappeared.” – Glenda Jackson MP, June 30, 2014.

Yesterday’s Parliamentary debate on the performance of the Department for Work and Pensions under Iain Duncan Smith was more like a trial, with witnesses lining up to condemn the accused.

If the man this blog likes to call RTU (Returned To Unit) thought he would be able to show that his behaviour had improved, he was sorely mistaken – as the comment above illustrates.

It is vital that this information reaches the general public despite the apparent news blackout, in the mainstream media, of any disparaging information about Duncan Smith or his DWP.

But we were discussing the debate as a trial. Let us first look at the evidence in favour of the government.

There. That was illuminating, wasn’t it?

Seriously, the government benches were unable to put up a single supportable point against the mountain of evidence put forward by Labour.

Iain Duncan Smith, the Secretary-in-a-State, resorted yet again to his favourite tactic – and one for which he should have been sacked as an MP long ago – lying to Parliament. He accused Labour of leaving behind a “shambles” – in fact the economy had begun to improve under intelligent guidance from Alistair Darling. “The economy was at breaking point,” he said – in fact the British economy cannot break; it simply doesn’t work that way. His claim that “We were burdened with the largest deficit in peacetime history” is only supportable in money terms, and then only because inflation means the pound is worth so much less than it was in, say, the 1940s – or for the entire century between 1750 and 1850. He called yesterday’s debate “a cynical nugget of short-term policy to put to the unions,” but the evidence below renders that completely irrelevant.

He said complaints about long delivery times for benefits were “out of date” – a common excuse. He’ll do the same in a few months, when the same complaint is raised again.

“Universal Credit is rolling out to the timescale I set last year,” he insisted – but we all know that it has been ‘reset’ (whatever that means) by the government’s Major Projects Authority.

He said there had been four independent reviews of the work capability assessment for Employment and Support Allowance, with more than 50 recommendations by Sir Malcolm Harrington accepted by the government. This was a lie. We know that almost two-thirds of the 25 recommendations he made in his first review were not fully or successfully implemented.

He said appeals against ESA decisions “are down by just under 90 per cent” – but we know that this is because of the government’s unfair and prejudicial mandatory reconsideration scheme – and that the DWP was bringing in a new provider to carry out work capability assessments. Then he had to admit that this provider has not yet been chosen! And the backlog of claims mounts up.

He tried to justify his hugely expensive botched IT schemes by pointing at a Labour scheme for the Child Support Agency that wasted hundreds of millions less than his Universal Credit, without acknowledging the obvious flaw in his argument: If he knew about this mistake, why is he repeating it?

Conservative Mark Harper said Labour opposed the Tories’ most popular scheme – the benefit cap. That was a lie. Labour supported the cap, but would have set it at a higher level. We know that the Coalition government could not do this because it would not, then, have made the huge savings they predicted.

Now, the evidence against.

First up is Rachel Reeves, shadow secretary of state for work and pensions: “After £612 million being spent, including £131 million written off or ‘written down’, the introduction of Universal Credit is now years behind schedule with no clear plan for how, when, or whether full implementation will be achievable or represent value for money.

Over 700,000 people are still waiting for a Work Capability Assessment, and… projected spending on Employment and Support Allowance has risen by £800 million since DecemberThe Government [is] still not able to tell us which provider will replace Atos.

Personal Independence Payment delays have created uncertainty, stress and financial costs for disabled people and additional budgetary pressures for Government… Desperate people, many of whom have been working and paying into the system for years or decades and are now struck by disability or illness, waiting six months or more for help from the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Work Programme has failed to meet its targets, the unfair bedroom tax risks costing more than it saves, and other DWP programmes are performing poorly or in disarray.

“Spending on housing benefit for people who are in work has gone up by more than 60 per cent, reflecting the fact that more people are in low-paid or insecure work and are unable to make ends meet, even though they may be working all the hours God sends.

“More than five million people — 20 per cent of the workforce — are paid less than the living wage. Furthermore, 1.5 million people are on zero-hours contracts and 1.4 million people are working part time who want to work full time.

“This… is about the young woman diagnosed with a life-limiting illness who has waited six months for any help with her living costs. It is about the disabled man whose payments have been stopped because he did not attend an interview to which he was never invited.

“The Government are wasting more and more taxpayers’ money on poorly planned and disastrously managed projects, and are allowing in-work benefits to spiral because of their failure to tackle the low pay and insecurity that are adding billions of pounds to the benefits bill.

“The Government are careless with the contributions that people make to the system, callous about the consequences of their incompetence for the most vulnerable, and too arrogant to admit mistakes and engage seriously with the task of sorting out their own mess.

“What this Government have now totally failed to do is to remember the human impact, often on people in vulnerable circumstances, of this catalogue of chaos. Behind the bureaucratic language and spreadsheets showing backlogs and overspends are people in need who are being let down and mistreated, and taxpayers who can ill afford the mismanagement and waste of their money.

“To fail to deliver on one policy might be considered unfortunate; to miss one’s targets on two has to be judged careless; but to make such a complete mess of every single initiative the Secretary of State has attempted requires a special gift. It is something like a Midas touch: everything he touches turns into a total shambles.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State will spew out dodgy statistics, rant and rave about Labour’s record, say “on time and on budget” until he is blue in the face and, in typical Tory style, blame the staff for everything that goes wrong.”

Julie Hilling (Labour) provides this: “The Government do not know what they are talking about… They talk about the number of jobs being created, but they do not know how many of them are on zero-hours contracts or how many are on Government schemes or how many have been transferred from the public sector.”

Stephen Doughty (Labour/Co-op): “another stark indictment of their policies is the massive increase in food banks across this country.”

Helen Jones (Labour): “When I asked how many people in my constituency had been waiting more than six months or three months for medical assessments for personal independence payment, the Government told me that the figures were not available. In other words, they are not only incompetent; they do not know how incompetent they are!”

Sheila Gilmore (Labour): “Although the problems with Atos were known about—and it is now being suggested that they had been known about for some time—a contract was given to that organisation for PIP. Was due diligence carried out before the new contract was issued?”

Gordon Marsden (Labour): “Many of my constituents have been caught by the double whammy of delays involving, first, the disability living allowance and now PIP. They have waited long periods for a resolution, but because a decision is being reconsidered, their Motability — the lifeline that has enabled them to get out of their homes — has been taken away before that decision has been made. Is that not a horrendous indictment of the Government?”

Emily Thornberry (Labour): “I have been making freedom of information requests.. in relation to mandatory reconsiderations. When people get their work capability assessment, and it has failed, before they can appeal there has to be a mandatory reconsideration. The Department does not know how many cases have been overturned, how many claimants have been left without any money and how long the longest period is for reconsideration. It cannot answer a single one of those questions under a freedom of information request.”

Natascha Engel (Labour): “The welfare state is designed as a safety net to catch people who absolutely cannot help themselves… That safety net is being withdrawn under this government, which is certainly pushing some of my constituents into destitution.”

There was much more, including the devastating speech by Glenda Jackson, partly in response to Natascha Engels’ comments, that is reproduced in the video clip above.

The vote – for the House of Commons to recognise that the DWP was in chaos and disarray – was lost (of course). A government with a majority will never lose such a vote.

But once again, the debate was won by the opposition. They had all the facts; all the government had were lies and fantasies.

By now, one suspects we all know somebody who has died as a result of Coalition government polices on welfare (or, preferably, social security). Two such deaths have been reported in the Comment columns of Vox Political since the weekend, and it is only Tuesday.

That is why it is vital that this information reaches the general public despite the apparent news blackout, in the mainstream media, of any disparaging information about Duncan Smith or his DWP.

Share it with your friends, use parts of it in letters to your local papers or radio stations, even mentioning it in conversation will help if the other person isn’t aware of the facts.

Don’t let it be suppressed.

You don’t want to do Iain Duncan Smith’s work for him, do you?

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Back to the drawing-board (again?) for Universal Credit


It is a testament to the ineptitude of Work and Pensions Secretary Iain ‘Sunken’ Smith that his flagship scheme has been sent back to square one – listed as “reset” by the government organisation responsible for grading its progress.

Mr… Smith (otherwise known as RTU or Returned To Unit, in tribute to a lifetime of failure) is determined that Universal Credit – which rolls all the major benefits into a single payment which the government can manipulate to make life extremely uncomfortable for claimants – will be his legacy; the achievement that marks him out for posterity.

Well, it will certainly remind us all of the man’s nature. Universal Credit has been beset with one false start after another and remains capable of handling only the simplest of tasks while promising miracles – and when it fails to deliver, its faults are explained away with implausible excuses.

The latest is that the Major Projects Authority (MPA) assessed the project last September and its judgement is out-of-date because there has been progress in implementing the scheme through pilot projects in Job Centres.

That seems about as plausible as RTU’s claim that the scheme has not written OFF £140 million of taxpayers’ money; instead the cash has been written down (meaning, it seems, that the value of the investment has been downgraded in the same way your computer is worth less now than the amount you paid for it – “the amortisation of cost over a period of time”). That’s not an acceptable answer as the money has still been spent.

Alternatively, you may wish to consider cabinet colleague Francis Maude’s claim that UC implementation has been “pretty lamentable”. The Secretary-in-a-State said this was a reference to a time before he made emergency changes to the project; changes that he did not mention to anybody – even the Commons Work and Pensions select committee, when it was investigating the project, maintaining that all was well.

In fact, this latest excuse is also among the oldest in Mr… Smith’s arsenal; it was used last year in response to the rating UC had received at the time.

The MPA rates major schemes according to a ‘traffic light’ system – green, amber or red. Universal Credit was previously marked as amber/red, meaning it was in danger of failure.

The organisation’s new report, released yesterday (Friday), possibly in an attempt to bury bad news, states: “This time last year, we rated 31 projects red or amber/red. Of these 31 projects, more than half did better this year and only one has got worse.”

You won’t get any prizes for guessing which one!

The bad news is that, despite everything, Universal Credit remains an ongoing project and will therefore continue to haemorrhage taxpayers’ pounds – that’s your hard-earned shekels – by the million.

The good news is that we can look forward to more media humiliation for Smith himself.

The man has caused more misery than anybody since Margaret Thatcher; it is right that he should face a little suffering of his own.

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Blaming the Civil Service for Coalition policy failures will do more harm than bombs

The idiot: "A person lacking professional skill, having bad judgement in public and political matters, characterised by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private, as opposed to public, affairs."

The idiot: “A person lacking professional skill, having bad judgement in public and political matters, characterised by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private, as opposed to public, affairs.”

“If Universal Credit is a flop, then it will prove our current Whitehall set-up is failing. But if it succeeds, it will be no thanks to the Civil Service either.”

So says a Spectator article apparently examining why Iain Duncan Smith’s flagship policy has received an Amber/Red status warning from the Major Projects Authority.

If it works, the government will take credit; if it fails, the government will blame the Civil Service. Never mind the fact that the plan is trying to make three incompatible computer systems work together, in real time. And we haven’t even discussed the pros and cons of what the government wants that system to do, what it will mean for people who will be forced into it, or what it signifies for the wider economy (in one word: trouble).

No – because this is the Conservatives’ latest wheeze, in case they don’t get elected in 2015: Blame the Civil Service for everything, cut it back, and leave the actual mechanics of government unusable by anybody who follows them.

So let’s put a few things straight right now: The British Civil Service is the most well-developed, professional and able government organisation on this planet. Its officers are highly competent and are able to provide expert advice and assistance on any project to which they are applied. I know this because I have worked within a government department where they did not take incompetence lightly and they knew how to weed out underachievers – the same government department responsible for Universal Credit, as it happens.

The ministers responsible for foisting this unworkable policy on these professionals, on the other hand, are a group of amateurs from an organisation that treats politics as a game. They have no prior training in their jobs, other than perhaps expressions of interest in Work and Pensions, at the same level as a hobby.

Look how Sue Marsh describes Iain Duncan Smith – the Secretary of State – in her excellent Diary of a Benefits Scrounger: “He went to a council estate once, saw some frightfully poor people and thought he would sort out ‘welfare’ because, well, they couldn’t possibly need all that food and warmth and bedrooms and stuff.

“With his trusty right hand man, Lord Freud, failed investment banker (and yes, related to Sigmund and Lucian), who famously sorted the whole new plan out in three weeks, with no knowledge or experience of social security at all, clutching the Daily Mail as their handbook, what could possibly go wrong?”

Everything. And it’s no surprise to anybody (apart from the Conservative Party, it seems).

These threatening noises are not the first indication of trouble within the Civil Service. It is, in fact, deeply troubled as a result of Conservative – not Coalition – agitation.

Vox Political reported in February on Michael Gove’s for-profit plans to halve the Department for Education’s administration, with 1,000 job losses and the closure of six regional offices. Almost one-third of remaining staff will switch between teams working on time-limited projects, a plan that almost guarantees that these projects will be poorly-executed.

One presumes the Civil Service will get the blame when they are – even though, again, Tory bad planning is the real culprit.

The Spectator article describes the Education situation in the following, stunningly-blinkered, fashion: “Michael Gove owes his success in reforming schools not to the alacrity shown by his department in signing up to his agenda, but to a superstructure of advisers that he brought in to operate above the existing officials.” In other words, he brought his ignorant mates in to force their foolishness on the professionals.

No wonder Vox Political reported in February that “the changes have created an atmosphere of disillusionment across Whitehall, with two-thirds of Britain’s most senior civil servants now so demoralised that they are considering quitting public service, according to a survey by the FDA union.

“How will our public services function if everybody who knows how they work has walked away in despair?”

The answer is, they won’t. The Tories are banking on it.

That is why these dangerous idiots must never be allowed into power again – and when I use the term “idiot”, I do so with reference to Athenian democracy, which describes an idiot as a person lacking professional skill, having bad judgement in public and political matters, characterised by self-centeredness and concerned almost exclusively with private, as opposed to public, affairs.

That seems an accurate description of the entire Parliamentary Conservative Party.

DWP: Denial With Prejudice?


Despite being beleaguered with defeat in the courts, the threat of further legal action for a different reason, and criticism that a flagship project is likely to fall flat on its arse, the DWP denial machine steams onward.

The fact that it continues to do this flies in the face of logic – but then, this blog has consistently argued that logic has nothing to do with DWP decisions. How can it? This is the government department with Iain Duncan Smith at the helm.

We all know that the Department of Welfare Persecution lost a court case last week, when High Court judges found that the regulations covering assessment of the mentally ill for Employment and Support Allowance break the Equality Act.

Yesterday it was reported – in Inside Housing, because none of the mainstream media would dream of reporting anything that criticises our alleged government – that no fewer than four families have launched a judicial review against the government’s benefit cap on grounds that it is “discriminatory and unreasonable”

They will argue that Mr… Smith did not take into account the impact of the policy on women, children, the disabled, racial and religious minorities, and carers when formulating the policy. Two of the families are expected to immediately fall into rent arrears and face eviction and street homelessness, because their rent exceeds the level of the cap – £500 a week.

And two of the families have fled domestic violence in circumstances where they were financially reliant upon their abusive partners and now risk losing their homes.

The DWP says the benefit cap sets “a fair limit” on what people can get from the state, which is not more than “£500 a week, the average household income”.

The average household income, once state benefits to which they are entitled is taken into account, is currently £605 per week.

On the same day that this new legal challenge was reported, the government itself revealed that it considers the Department of the Wastefully imPracticable’s flagship Universal Credit scheme to be in serious difficulty.

The Major Projects Authority has given it “amber-red” status, which denotes a project in danger of failing – and it wasn’t alone. Also in danger were the department’s fraud and error programme and its plan to introduce the new Personal Independence Payment, which is intended to replace Disability Living Allowance.

The DWP has argued that the rating is out of date, reflecting where the project was eight months ago – but this is clearly nonsense. Eight months ago, the government was telling us that Universal Credit was on track. Now it is saying this is no longer the case.

Also, any fool can say that the evidence is out of date because all statistics used in such reports are from a point in the past. That doesn’t mean they are inaccurate.

In the United States they have – or had – in their justice system a convention known as the “three-strikes law”. This was a statute enacted by state governments which demanded harsher sentences on habitual offenders who are convicted of three or more serious criminal offenses.

Since we in the UK seem to be adopting more and more American policies (their rubbish health system springs immediately to mind), perhaps we should adopt this system. Iain Duncan Smith has already lost in the courts on workfare and on the work capability assessment.

If he loses on the benefit cap, that will be the third strike against him and he should be ejected from government (if this has not already happened by then) along with all the silly so-called ministers who support him.

With new minds at the top of the DWP, its possible that Universal Credit would then be halted and we could see a return to something approximating sanity.

I doubt it, but hope springs eternal.